Hair Bleaches & Scalp Irritation

Girl with short bleached hair
Short bleached hair - Photo: UfaBizPhoto/Shutterstock
Q: Last week I went in to get my hair colored. The hairstylist instead of highlighting sections of my hair she colored or bleached the top half of my hair. The color is almost like a yellow/bleached blonde color. When she was applying the color, I felt a burning sensation.
Now I've noticed that my hair is extremely thin on top and more so than before. I think that the product burned my hair, and it fell out. I was wondering if the hair will grow back after getting burned. Should I be worried, and do you have suggestions as to what I should do? I would really, really, really appreciate it if you could send me a reply. Thank you in advance.

A: Okay. I'm concerned about what may have been done, because it sounds like the stylist may have applied hair bleach directly to your head, which is inappropriate. I need you to carefully think back to the procedure and see if you remember whether the mixture she applied changed color as it processed or if it stayed white as the hair lightened with it? If the mixture stayed white while the hair color lightened, it sounds like she applied bleach directly to your hair and at the scalp.
Hair bleaches (which come in powder form and must be combined with hydrogen peroxide developers) are meant for "Off the scalp" use only. This means that they are only appropriate for use with foil highlighting or highlighting through a cap. The hair color formulas that are mixed with higher-strength peroxides are safe for direct application, though.
Even the highest strength peroxides are okay for direct application when mixed with hair color, as long as the client isn't sensitive to the chemicals. Anytime chemicals are to be applied to the hair, a patch test is required to make sure the client won't have a reaction to the chemicals.
Even if the stylist used a hair color mixture, you may be sensitive to the chemicals, and a patch test should have been performed before the procedure was done.
I have other questions about the procedure: Was a patch test done prior to the procedure? Did you alert the stylist to the burning sensation? What was done to alleviate the burning? When you look at and feel your scalp now, do you feel any roughness or scabbing of the skin? Does your scalp look red and irritated or burned?
If you can see or feel scabbing, redness or irritation you may have gotten chemical burns from chemicals that were too strong, or that you were sensitive to. This could cause damage to the scalp and hair follicles, resulting in hair loss. If the hair was in improper condition to receive the service, you could have experienced sufficient damage to cause the hair to break off at the scalp. I can't offer an opinion one way or the other without knowing precisely what was put on your head, and seeing the after-effects personally.
I personally recommend that you visit your doctor (or a dermatologist) to find out if you have chemical burns and whether the apparent hair loss is a result of them. He, at least, can prescribe a treatment for the scalp if a burn is the problem. My second recommendation is that you return to the salon and point out the stylist who did the service and the manager of the salon, the results you've experienced after the service.
Ask specifically what chemicals were used, and if patch tests were not performed beforehand, ask why not. If the stylist admits to using a bleaching mix, ask him/her why this was applied directly to your scalp when it isn't supposed to be used "On the scalp". You have every right to expect answers.
See also:
Scalp problems
Bleaching hair
The difference between emulsion bleach and powder bleach for hair
Can bleaching and dying your hair cause brain damage?